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Australia’s Game Development Industry is Bouncing Back

Home-grown game developers are on the rise in Australia

During the global financial crisis, the future of Australia’s game development industry was looking very grim.  Dozens of gaming companies with international ties closed down nearly half of the employees in the industry have fled the scene.  Throughout the past couple of years, most of the income in the gaming industry was made from games designed for consoles such as the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and the Nintendo Wii as well as PC games.  But now there’s been a dramatic change with the rise in the smartphone gaming industry.

Local game developers in Australia say that there’s big money to be made in the industry now as a result of the popularity that games and apps for mobile phones have received in recent years.  In fact, the world’s second most popular smartphone game, Fruit Ninja, was developed by a small company located in Brisbane, Australia and the game has now sold over 400 million downloads worldwide.  With this kind of success, it’s been predicted that the industry will be worth an estimated $80 billion worldwide within the next three years.

It’s clear that while the number of jobs in the Australian gaming industry has been greatly reduced, there are still plenty of opportunities for local businesses to make a profit from their own brands.  As an added bonus, the Federal Government has begun handing out $20 million worth of grants and business loans for digital gaming companies in an effort to jump start the industry and try to regain some of the losses that were incurred over the past few years.

Lou Iatarola

Source:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-04-22/home-grown-game-developers-play-on-halfbrick-fruit-ninja/4643210

ByteCard Consumer Contracts Deemed “Unfair”

ByteCard Ptd. Ltd. provides internet and telephone services around Australia

For the first time, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has taken legal action against a company based solely on the new unfair contract terms provisions of the Australian Consumer Law.  The company, ByteCard Pty. Limited (also known as Netspeed Internet Communications), is facing allegations related to their standard consumer contracts stating that they contain unfair terms and should be declared void.

The alleged unfair contract terms enable ByteCard to alter their prices under existing contracts without allowing the customer the right to terminate the contract.  The terms also require their consumers to pay an insurance fee under any circumstance, even if the contract hasn’t been violated or if damages were incurred by ByteCard themselves.  The last contract term that’s been deemed unfair is that under the conditions, ByteCard is able to terminate the contract at any time, regardless of any cause or reason.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is seeking declarations from the Federal Court that these contract clauses are unjust and the matter is listed for a scheduling conference on June 13, 2013.

The Commission undertook an industry review recently which took a closer look at consumer contracts and problems associated with them.  To test whether any contract elements are considered unfair, it would have to cause a significant imbalance in the consumer’s rights and obligations under the contract.  It would also have to be deemed unnecessary to protect the legitimate interest of the consumer under the contract.  Finally, the contract would be deemed unfair if it could be proven detrimental to the consumer if the contract was applied to them.

If it’s found that ByteCard’s contract is guilty of these three elements, the company could face severe legal consequences.

Lou Iatarola

Source:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-04-22/internet-contracts-do-away-with-consumer-rights/4644250

Australia’s Slightly Slipped in Global IT Rankings

Australia’s dropped 9 spots in global IT rankings since almost a decade ago

Australia’s decline on the global ranking of investment and use of information technology hasn’t happened overnight.  It’s been almost 10 years since the country held the number 9 spot on the list and now Iceland has taken a lead over Australia.

This decline has still occurred even in the face of Australia’s Federal Government making a substantial investment in the National Broadband Network.  The main issue, it seems, lies in the country’s high cost of internet and mobile phones.

The Global Information Technology Report covers 144 economies and uses a wide range of information to determine where each country ranks when placed up against each other.  The authors of the report analyze data related to investment and IT structure as well as tax rates, individual internet use, levels of piracy and how difficult it is for someone to start up their own business.

This all isn’t to say that Australia has become technologically inferior, they’re still keeping up with most other countries and they aren’t slipping down the list fast.  Last year they were placed 17th out of 144 and officials remain optimistic about Australia’s future in regards to information technology.  It doesn’t matter in which field the country boosts its technology in to move up in the ranks, only that something significant happens.  But clearly, making technology more affordable in Australia would be the best place to start.

Lou Iatarola

Source:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-04-11/australia-slipping-in-it-rankings/4622550

Australia is Fed Up With Poor Mobile Coverage

Disgruntled cell phone users will get the opportunity to voice their opinions at a summit being held in July

The number of complaints from cell phone users in Australia has reached an all-time high.   More than half of the complaints received by Aussie cell phone companies such as Ombudsman and Vodaphone are that customers are having trouble with mobile coverage.  Is response to these issues, the Australian Communications and Media Authority are planning to head a summit involving telecommunications industries and their consumers.

What’s making these customers even more upset is not only that the company they’ve chosen has shoddy phone service, but that they’re also locked into long-term contracts with these companies.  This means that they need to stick with companies that they’ve grown unhappy with or face substantial contract termination fees.

Another related issue that’s been raised is that poor coverage is not a problem that’s covered by any industrial codes.  There is no mandatory law that states that all cell phone companies are required to carry exceptional service in all supported areas.

This upcoming summit to be held in July will give consumers a chance to speak their minds to the telecommunications industry and try to get a solution set in motion for the problem.  Consumers have shown support for the idea of an industry standard for coverage, but ACMA spokesman Chris Chia has stated that the problem is one to be solved by the competitive market.  “Consumers at the moment are free to essentially make choices amongst their providers… Our competitive market presumably has an important role to play there.”

Lou Iatarola

Source:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-04-25/summit-to-address-poor-mobile-coverage/4650556

Satire or Defamation?

Conservative Party leader Colin Craig

A New Zealand political satire website known as “The Civilian” received some heat from Conservative Party leader Colin Craig last week.  The website published a story regarding some flooding that occurred in the city of Nelson, Waikato, stating that the flood in the Bay of Plenty was a result of the Marriage Amendment Bill being passed.  This was an obvious reference to Pakuranga MP Maurice Williamson’s now famous speech where he describes seeing a “big gay rainbow” and claims it’s a sign in favor of the amendment which permits the marriage of same-sex couples.

The article featured in “The Civilian” then goes on to quote Colin Craig, “Williamson likes to talk about big gay rainbows, but it would help if he understood what the rainbow actually means.  After Noah’s flood, God painted a giant rainbow across the sky, which was a message that he would never again flood the world, unless we made him very angry.  And we have.”

The only problem is, Craig never said that.  The quote was entirely satirical and manufactured by “The Civilian.”  This resulted in Craig’s lawyer sending the editor of the satire website a letter claiming the quote to be defamatory and inaccurate.  In response, a note was published above the story which read, “We accept, upon further review, that Mr. Craig never made the statement attributed to him.  We retract the statement and apologize to Mr. Craig for any harm we have caused to his impeccable reputation [smiley face].”

Later, Craig stated that he was pleased with the response of the editor and that he would take no further legal action.

Ben Uffindell, editor of “The Civilian,” claims that any story published on the website is intended to be purely satirical and he never wanted anyone to receive the impression that Mr. Craig actually made such a comment.  He’s also stated that the story’s generated so much publicity for the website, that their servers are struggling to keep up with the huge influx of web traffic it’s been receiving.

What do you think, was Craig in the right to take up legal action against “The Civilian,” or was he taking the whole thing too seriously?

-Lou Iatarola

Sources:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/politics/8590534/Conservative-Party-withdraws-legal-action-over-satire

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/media-publishing-industry/news/article.cfm?c_id=707&objectid=10879821

New Zealand May Get a “One-Stop-Shop” Media Regulator

Law Commission president Sir Grant Hammond

        A new proposal in New Zealand may result in a single, independent regulator to watch over every aspect of the country’s media – online news, print and broadcasting.  After much speculation was made by the Law Commission, president Grant Hammond stated that the best move in today’s digital age is to create a “one-stop-shop” media regulator which would be completely independent of the government and industry.  This new watchdog would hear complaints and issue sanctions on all forms of news from current affairs down to opinions.  Hammond also stated that this proposal has not been made in light of any kind of crisis with the media.  Instead, it’s been prompted by the many gaps and imbalances between the many different forms of media that bring the public news and current affairs.  For instance, broadcast news was subject to strict statutory standards and heavy sanctions while online content and content accessed on-demand was subject to far less standards if any at all.

        Although this new regulator would not have the power to actually fine companies, it would the power to force publishers to remove material from a website, correct errors, publish apologies, allow a person a right of reply and ensure that all reporting was done in an ethical manner.  Former TVNZ head of news Bill Ralston stated that, “Shaming is a far worse penalty [than a fine] because you lose faith and trust of your readers and listeners.”

-Lou Iatarola

Sources:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/media-publishing-industry/news/article.cfm?c_id=707&objectid=10873856

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/greenslade/2013/mar/26/press-regulation-newzealand

No More Gambling Odds During Live TV Sports in Australia

Tom Waterhouse, a successful Australian bookmaker

        Under new laws proposed by Free TV Australia, the body which represents all of Australia’s free-to-air television channels, reporting on gambling odds during sporting events will be banned.  The amendments that have been put forward for Australia’s Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice would stop commentators and any guests featured on live TV sporting events to not only refrain from the discussion and promotion of gambling odds during matches, but also for an extended 30 minutes before and after each match.  This is all being done in an effort to stop children bearing witness to gambling promotion in a country which already suffers from the most cases of gambling addiction in the entire world (H2 Gambling Capital, London).

        These amendments being proposed are following in the wake of a controversy regarding bookmaker Tom Waterhouse’s appearances during Nine Network’s live broadcasts of rugby matches earlier this season.  The successful 30-year-old bookie was featured on screen during the matches, updating betting odds and giving his opinion on plays as if he were part of the commentary team.

        Waterhouse has come out in his defense, stating that he and his organization have “no intention of targeting children through our advertising.”  He stated that his affiliation with the broadcasts was as a sponsor, not a commentator, and that there are never any interactions between himself and that actual commentators.  Department officials in Australia have indicated that unless it was during a sporting match and Waterhouse was deemed to be either a commentator or the guest of a commentator, there was never any breach of code.

-Lou Iatarola

Sources:

http://www.illawarramercury.com.au/story/1449771/proposal-to-ban-odds-during-live-tv-sports/?cs=300

http://www.smh.com.au/business/waterhouse-defends-highprofile-role-20130423-2icn2.html

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-04-22/ban-on-live-odds-during-sport-proposed/4643162

http://www.sunshinecoastdaily.com.au/news/waterhouse-commentator-gets-around-sport-gambling/1799660/